"The Amazing Spider-Man" has been taking the box office by storm. Since opening on July 3, the film has made $75.5 million domestically, and could eventually compete with the Sam Raimi trilogy for top Spidey franchise.
However, while the Tobey Maguire-starring "Spider-Man" films are praised by both critics and audiences, they were not the first attempt to get the friendly neighborhood superhero onto the big screen. Over the last three decades, there have been several versions of "Spider-Man" that almost came to be: from a corny B-movie to an R-rated epic from James Cameron.
Moviefone takes a look back at the "Spider-Man" moves that almost happened.
A "Spider-Man" Monster Movie, directed by Tobe Hooper ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre")
The first studio to acquire the rights to "Spider-Man" was Cannon Films (the people behind '80s fare like "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo," "Masters of the Universe" and "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.") Studio chiefs Golan and Globus misinterpreted the concept, and wanted to do something more like "Swamp Thing." In their first proposal, Peter Parker is a lowly ID-badge photographer who is subjected to radiation from a mad scientist. He turns into a hairy, eight-armed tarantula monster that must fight off the scientist's mutant experiments before they take over the world. Naturally, producers approached horror-meister Hooper to direct and commissioned Leslie Stevens, the creator of "The Outer Limits," to pen the screenplay.
A Chuck Norris-style "Spider-Man," with Bob Hoskins as Doctor Octopus
After Stan Lee rejected the monster movie idea, Cannon pursued a more action-oriented gameplan. They hired Joseph Vito, the auteur behind Chuck Norris' "Missing in Action" and "Invasion U.S.A.," to direct. In this new treatment, Otto Octavius and his research assistant Peter Parker are both transformed during a lab experiment involving a cyclotron. Parker's boss turns into the maniacal Doctor Octopus -- complete with head-scratching "okey dokey" catchphrase -- and it's up to Spidey to stop him from obtaining anti-gravity.
Hoskins was considered for the part of Ock, (and funnily enough, was an early ideal casting choice for Wolverine too). Although it never got very far, the movie audaciously considered Lauren Bacall and Audrey Hepburn for the part of Aunt May. For ol' webhead himself, the front-runner was stuntman Scott Leva; the unknown actor took promotional photos for Cannon, and was hired by Marvel to make public appearances and posed for comic book covers.
James Cameron's "Spider-Man," with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doc Ock
The Zito production fell apart when its budget was severely cut. For the next several years, Cannon attempted several low-budget rewrites before the studio collapsed from financial ruin. Producer Golan held onto the rights and leveraged them to Viacom and Columbia Pictures, for TV and home video distribution. This would later create a huge legal mess that sank the companies.
Columbia was interested in producing the "Spider-Man" movie, but pushed Golan to make several rewrites. Instead, he released a press release to Variety announcing James Cameron had joined the project and re-submitted the existing script as a rewrite with the "Avatar" director's name attached. For this rehash of the cyclotron-based adventure, producers hoped to get Arnie as Doc Ock.
James Cameron's "Spider-Man," Take Two
Eventually, Golan was able to actually get Cameron to contribute to the script, crafting a new plot that took some elements from previous versions, but now featured Electro and the Sandman as the movie's bad guys. Cameron's script went heavy on the profanity and the story would have culminated with a battle atop the World Trade Center. But the movie's most eyebrow-raising scene would have been a Spider-Man and Mary Jane love-making session that mimicked the mating rituals of arachnids, on top of the Brooklyn Bridge. (Because, why not?) You can check out storyboards from Cameron's "Spider-Man"here.)
Competing "Spider-Man" movies
Cameron planned to produce his "Spider-Man" through Carolco Pictures; during this process, Golan was ousted as producer. As he sued Carolco, they began pursuing legal action against Viacom and Columbia, to get video rights back. Viacom and Columbia in turn countersued. Then 20th Century Fox stepped in and said Cameron had an exclusive contract with them and couldn't make movies for anyone else. During this time, Golan's production company, Carolco and Marvel all filed for bankruptcy. MGM acquired Golan's assets and then sued everybody to get "Spider-Man." In addition to this whole kerfuffle, contracts expired and Marvel regained the rights to the movie; they licensed "Spider-Man" to Sony/Columbia to pull themselves out of bankruptcy, which incensed MGM, who planned to make a competing "Spider-Man" movie.
The story gets even crazier when MGM exec John Calley switched sides to Columbia and brought with him Kevin McClory's claim to the "James Bond" franchise. Columbia planned to create another "Thunderball"/"Never Say Never Again" scenario to counteract the dueling "Spider-Man" movies. With both studios at a standoff, they agreed to a complex trade in which MGM held all film rights to "Bond" and Sony/Columbia could finally make a "Spider-Man" movie.
Before settling on Sam Raimi to direct, Sony courted many top filmmakers, like Tim Burton, Roland Emmerich, Chris Columbus and David Fincher; Fincher even presciently pitched a movie based around the Gwen Stacy story, as opposed to the origin of Peter Parker. After reaching a deal with Raimi, the production still used many elements from Cameron's plot. Eventually they switched out the Sandman and Electro with Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin. After several more rewrites, the production finally settled on the story that became a box office hit in 2002. However, one idea from Cameron remained all along: replacing Spidey's mechanical web-shooters with an organic ability to spin webs.
Sam Rami's "Spider-Man 4" and "5," featuring the Lizard, the Vulture and the Vulturess
Despite a disappointing audience response, "Spider-Man 3" was a massive financial success, guaranteeing another installment. The first lofty idea was to shoot "4" and "5" back-to-back, "Lord of the Rings"-style. Then Sony committed to shooting a "5" and "6" in succession before cameras even started rolling on a fourth.
Raimi's first plan was to finally transform supporting character Dr. Curt Connors into the Lizard. Then it looked like the movie's villain would be the Vulture. Sony began negotiating with John Malkovich for the part of the spindly old villain. Also up for consideration was Anne Hathaway as Felicia Hardy (who comic fans may know as the sexy crime-fighting Black Cat). But for reasons never explained, the movie would ignore her feline alter-ego and instead turn her into the Vultress. (Because Anne Hathaway would never work as a cat-based superhero character.)
Raimi was never happy with any version of a script for number four, and when Sony pushed him to commit to filming by a certain date, he instead chose to walk away, taking Tobey Maguire with him. Rather than try to find a replacement, Sony opted to reboot the series, leading us to right now.
Bonus: The Groovy '70s Spidey Trilogy
International audiences were treated to three "Spider-Man" movies in the late '70s, when the CBS "Amazing Spider-Man" program had its pilot movie released as a feature film outside the U.S. In 1978 and 1979, they re-cut episodes of the show into the sequels "Spider-Man Strikes Back" and "Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge."